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 The surroundings around us are termed as ‘environment’. Our environment includes the abiotic component (the non living) and biotic component (the living). The abiotic environment includes air, water and soil; and the biotic environment consists of all living organisms such as plants, animals and microorganisms. Environmental pollution broadly refers to the presence of undesirable substances in the environment which are harmful to man and other organisms. There has been a significant increase in the levels of harmful environmental pollution mostly due to direct or indirect human activities in recent past. The major sources of environmental pollution are industries, agricultural and other anthropogenic and biogenic sources etc. The pollutants are chemical, biological and physical in nature.B. Controlling the environmental pollution and the conservation of environment and biodiversity and controlling environmental pollution are the major focus areas of all the countries around the world. In this context, the importance and impact of biotechnological approaches and the implications of biotechnology has to be thoroughly evaluated. There have been serious concerns regarding the use of biotechnological products and the impact assessment of these products due to their interaction with the environmental factors. A lobby of the environmentalists has expressed alarm on the release of genetically engineered organisms in the atmosphere and have stressed on thorough investigation and proper risk assessment of theses organisms before releasing them in to the environment. The effect of the effluents from biotechnological companies is also a cause of concern for everyone. The need of the hour is to have a proper debate on the safety of the use of the biotechnological products. The efforts are not only on to use biotechnology to protect the environment from pollution but also to use it to conserve the natural resources. As we all know that microorganisms are known natural scavengers so the microbial preparations (both natural as well as genetically engineered) can be used to clean up the environmental hazards.C. Biotechnology is being used to provide alternative cleaner technologies which help to further reduce the hazardous environmental implications of the traditional technologies. Some of the well known examples and mechanisms are:(i) Some fermentation technologies have some serious environmental implications. Various biotechnological processes have been devised in which all nutrients introduced for fermentation are retained in the final product, which ensures high conversion efficiency and low environmental impact.(ii) In paper industry, the pulp bleaching technologies are being replaced by more environmentally friendly technologies involving biotechnology. The pulp processing helps to remove the lignin without damaging valuable cellulosic fibres but the available techniques suffer from the disadvantages of high costs, high energy use and corrosion. A lignin degrading and modifying enzyme (LDM) was isolated from Phanerochaete chrysosporum and was used, which on one hand, helped to reduce the energy costs and corrosion and on the other hand increased the life of the system. This approach helped in reducing the environmental hazards associated with bleach plant effluents.(iii) In Plastic industry, the conventional technologies use oil based raw materials to extract ethylene and propylene which are converted to alkene oxides and then polymerized to form plastics such as polypropylene and polyethylene. There is always the risk of these raw materials escaping into the atmosphere thereby causing pollution. Using biotechnology, more safer raw materials like sugars (glucose) are being used which are enzymatically or through the direct use of microbes converted into alkene oxides.e.g. Methylococcus capsulatus has been used for converting alkene into alkene oxides.(iv) Bioremediation is defined as ‘the process of using microorganisms to remove the environmental pollutants where microbes serve as scavengers. The removal of organic wastes by microbes leads to environmental cleanup. The other names/terms used for bioremediation are bio-treatment, bio-reclamation, and bio-restoration. The term “Xenobiotics” (xenos means foreign) refers to the unnatural, foreign and synthetic chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, refrigerants, solvents and other organic compounds. The microbial degradation of xenobiotics also helps in reducing the environmental pollution. Depending on the method followed to clean up the environment, the bioremediation is carried out in two ways:
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